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Three Best Microspikes for Hiking

Best Microspikes for Hiking in the Snow: Top 3 Suggestions

Winter is approaching the Rocky Mountains, and snow is either in the forecast or already falling across much of the west. However, with the right gear, including traction devices, hiking season doesn’t have to come to an end. One such device is microspikes, a relatively new piece of hiking equipment that provides improved boot traction on snow and ice. Microspikes consist of small spikes attached to chains and rubber, offering a similar effect to mini-crampons but without the weight or aggressiveness of true mountaineering crampons. If you plan to visit snowy or icy conditions, it’s recommended to bring a pair of microspikes for hiking to ensure your safety.

If you’re in need of a new pair, we have compiled the three best microspikes for hiking below, along with the benefits of using microspikes, tips for their proper usage and maintenance, and a Frequently Asked Questions section with additional answers and information. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Why Microspikes are Important for Hikers

Microspikes are an essential piece of gear for hikers, offering numerous benefits in terms of safety and performance. These specialized traction devices provide crucial stability and confidence when navigating challenging terrains. Here are three key reasons why microspikes are important for hikers:

  1. Traction on slippery surfaces: Microspikes excel in providing reliable traction on slippery surfaces such as icy trails, packed snow, or steep slopes. Their strategically placed spikes grip into the ground, significantly reducing the risk of slips and falls.
  2. Increasing safety during winter hiking: Winter hiking often involves encountering icy and treacherous conditions. Microspikes offer hikers the necessary grip to confidently traverse these challenging terrains, ensuring a safer hiking experience.
  3. Versatility for different terrains: Microspikes are versatile and suitable for various terrains, including trails, frozen lakes, or even urban areas with icy sidewalks. They can be easily attached to your boots and provide the extra grip needed to tackle a wide range of surfaces.

By incorporating microspikes into your hiking gear, you can enhance your safety, stability, and overall enjoyment during your outdoor adventures.

best microspikes for hiking Ellingwood Point
Wearing microspikes with Ellingwood Point in the background
best microspikes for hiking Blanca Peak
Working my way up Mount Blanca in November wearing spikes

What to Look for in a Good Pair of Microspikes

These are the four main factors we considered when deciding which traction devices are the best microspikes for hiking in snow and ice.

1. Material: Pay attention to the material used in the construction of the microspikes. Look for durable and high-quality materials that can withstand various terrains and weather conditions.

2. Spike Length and Arrangement: The length and arrangement of the spikes play a crucial role in providing traction and stability. Opt for microspikes with strategically placed spikes that offer reliable grip on icy or slippery surfaces.

3. Weight: Consider the weight of the microspikes, as you want them to be lightweight and easy to carry during your hikes. Lighter microspikes will help minimize fatigue and allow for a more enjoyable hiking experience.

4. Ease of Use: Look for microspikes that are easy to put on and take off. Adjustable straps or buckles can ensure a secure fit and make it convenient to use the microspikes with different types of boots.

The 3 Best Microspikes for Hiking

After considering more than 9 different options, we selected Kahtoola Microspikes, Black Diamond Distance Spikes, and the Unigear Traction Cleats as the three top microspikes for hikers in winter conditions. Here are more details and where you can find them.

1. Kahtoola Microspikes

Kahtoola Microspikes for Hiking

Kahtoola’s microspikes have long been considered the top pair of spikes on the market. They’ve perfected their spike placement to ensure a comfortable fit with aggressive traction. Their price is worth their durability, traction, comfort, and fit.


  • Spike material and length: 12 stainless steel 3/8” spikes
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Usability: Very easy to put on and take off


  • Aggressive traction
  • Optimal spike distribution
  • Extremely Durable


  • Moderately expensive
  • Mid-level weight

Best for: A tough pair of microspikes that packs a lot of traction despite its mid-level weight. Use it for hiking on trails, deep snow, thick ice, but avoid dry, hard surfaces like rock or pavement.

Price Range: $69.99-$79.99

2. Black Diamond Distance Spike

Distance Spikes for hiking

This is the most expensive option on the list, as well as the most lightweight. If speed and agility are your priority, these are probably the best microspikes for you. They don’t do well with deep snow but excel in light snow conditions.


  • Spike material and length: 14 stainless steel 3/10” spikes
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Usability: Easy to put on and take off


  • Super lightweight option
  • Good traction
  • Secure fit on any shoe


  • Very expensive
  • Struggles in deep snow

Best for: Designed for lightweight adventures, these spikes are great for trail runners, peak baggers, alpine style ascents, but will struggle in deep snow and on dry, hard surfaces.

Price Range: $99.99-$109.99

3. Best Budget Option: Unigear Traction Cleats

Looking for an affordable option? Look no further. These Traction Cleats are heavy – they weigh more than a pound – but they provide great traction and a good fit at a cost almost anyone can afford. For short hikes and casual use, they can get the job done. I would not recommend them if you spend much time outdoors in snowy conditions.


  • Spike material and length: 18 Stainless Steel 1/2” spikes
  • Weight: 16.6 ounces
  • Usability: Easy enough to put on. Average comfort.


  • Very affordable
  • Provides great traction
  • Lasts for a long time


  • Heavy and bulky

Best for: With its half-inch spikes, the Unigear Traction Cleats are ideal for deep snow and thick ice, but do not do well on dry, hard surfaces. Avoid rocky terrain and pavement. The weight makes it a poor choice for trail running too.

Price Range: $19.99-$25.99

How and When to Use Microspikes for Hiking

Even with a pair of some of the best microspikes for hiking, you must know how and when to use them or they won’t do you any good. Here are the details on how, when, and where to use your microspikes for hiking in the field.

When to Use Microspikes for Hiking:

  • Microspikes are most effective when walking on packed snow, icy trails, or steep slopes where extra grip is needed.
  • It is recommended to use microspikes in winter or during colder seasons when the trail conditions are icy or slippery.

How to Use Microspikes for Hiking:

  • Ensure a proper fit by adjusting the straps or buckles to securely fasten them to your boots.
  • Maintain a steady and deliberate pace to maximize the grip of the spikes on the ground.
  • Take shorter, more controlled steps to enhance stability.
  • Avoid sudden movements or quick changes in direction, as this can compromise stability.

Where to Use Microspikes for Hiking:

  • Microspikes are versatile and can be used on various terrains, including trails, frozen lakes, or even urban areas with icy sidewalks.
  • However, it is important to remove microspikes when walking on surfaces where they are not needed, as they can cause damage to pavement or indoor flooring.
Best Microspikes for James Peak
Climbing James Peak in January with microspikes and trek poles

How to Maintain Your Microspikes

Proper maintenance of your microspikes is essential to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. Here are some key tips for keeping your microspikes in top condition:

Cleaning: After each use, gently clean your microspikes to remove any dirt, debris, or moisture. Use a soft brush or cloth to wipe away any buildup, paying special attention to the spikes and straps. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the spikes or straps.

Storage: Store your microspikes in a cool, dry place to prevent rust or corrosion. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Consider using a dedicated storage bag or container to protect them from damage and keep them organized.

Seasonal Care: Before storing your microspikes for an extended period, thoroughly inspect them for any signs of wear or damage. Replace any worn spikes or damaged straps before your next adventure. If necessary, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for specific care recommendations.

By following these maintenance practices, you can ensure that your microspikes remain in excellent condition and ready for your next hiking excursion.

A closeup of a generic pair of microspikes worn with gaiters

The 3 Best Microspikes for Hiking in Snow

When hiking in snowy or icy terrain, having the right gear is essential. Among the various hiking equipment, microspikes play a significant role in ensuring safety and efficiency. After careful consideration, we narrowed down the top three microspikes for hikers:

  1. Kahtoola Microspikes: These top favorite microspikes offer reliable traction on slippery surfaces, are lightweight, and easy to use.
  2. Black Diamond Distance Spike: These microspikes provide grip on icy or slippery surfaces, are lightweight, durable, and ideal for speedy ascents.
  3. Unigear Traction Cleats: Affordable and reliable, these microspikes are suitable for various terrains if you can put up with their weight and bulk.

Investing in quality microspikes is crucial for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Choose microspikes made with durable materials, strategically placed spikes, and that are lightweight and easy to use. Enhance your safety, stability, and overall enjoyment on the trail with our top recommendations. Safe travels on the trails!

Additional Resources

FAQs - Best Microspikes for Hiking

If we haven’t addressed your question below, leave a comment at the bottom and we will get you an answer within 72 hours with more information.

Q: Are microspikes good for hiking?

A: Yes, microspikes are excellent for hiking, particularly in challenging terrains. They provide reliable traction on slippery surfaces such as icy trails or steep slopes, significantly reducing the risk of slips and falls.

A: The best microspikes for hiking depend on individual preferences and specific hiking conditions. However, some top-rated options include Kahtoola Microspikes, Black Diamond Distance Spike, and Unigear Traction Cleats. These microspikes offer exceptional durability, grip, and usability, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable hiking experience.

A: While both Yaktrax and microspikes are traction devices designed for hiking, they differ in design and functionality. Yaktrax typically feature coils or wires that provide traction on packed snow or icy surfaces. Microspikes, on the other hand, have small spikes strategically placed on the sole, offering enhanced grip on various terrains, including icy trails, steep slopes, or rocky surfaces.

A: The choice between microspikes and EXOspikes depends on your specific hiking needs and preferences. Microspikes are ideal for general hiking on icy trails, packed snow, or steep slopes. EXOspikes, on the other hand, are designed specifically for trail running and provide excellent traction and stability on variable terrain. Consider your intended use and terrain conditions to determine the most suitable option for your needs.

A: Crampons and microspikes are both traction devices used for hiking, but they differ in design and functionality. Crampons are more robust and feature longer spikes, making them suitable for more extreme terrains such as ice climbing or mountaineering. Microspikes, on the other hand, have shorter spikes and are designed for less technical terrains like icy trails or slippery slopes.

A: It is generally recommended to size up when choosing microspikes. This allows for a proper and secure fit, ensuring that the spikes align correctly with the sole of your boots. Sizing up also allows for extra room if you are wearing bulkier winter boots or multiple layers of socks.

A: Yes, microspikes are highly effective and useful for hiking in challenging terrains. They provide the necessary traction and stability to prevent slips and falls on icy or slippery surfaces. Micro spikes are designed to grip into the ground, significantly enhancing safety and confidence during winter hikes or treacherous conditions.

A: Kahtoola Microspikes are widely regarded as a top-quality option for hiking in icy or snowy conditions. They offer excellent traction, durability, and ease of use, making them worth the investment for hikers seeking reliable and high-performance microspikes.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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